Saturday morning, Donald Trump, a serial philanderer, proven liar, and publicly cruel bastard, gave his first university commencement speech as president. Liberty University, a private religious school founded by Jerry Falwell, invited him to speak at their graduation, and it is estimated that over 50,000 people gathered to watch. Falwell, of course, was also the now-deceased founder of what he liked to call the “Moral Majority,” a religion-based political action group that works to elect right-wing candidates.
One of the biggest factors in Donald Trump’s electoral college win last November was the staggering number of self-described “evangelicals” who cast their vote for him. The Washington Post puts the number around 80 percent who determined he was Christian enough for them, overlooking his many decidedly non-Christian indiscretions. In fact, most believe that Christians who voted for Trump have forever surrendered their right to claim the moral high ground in politics — a low bar, but one they have proudly straddled since the Reagan era.
The speech may as well have been written by a high school freshman. Quartz described it as “every single graduation cliché,” and most, if not all, media outlets noted that he couldn’t help but brag as usual about the size of the crowd, his election victory, and his own courage in facing “entrenched interests and failed power structures.”
But more importantly, after receiving an honorary law degree from Falwell’s son, Jerry Jr., Trump proceeded to use the commencement as the same kind of platform he seizes every time a microphone is thrust in his face: as a rally. As comparisons to disgraced former president Richard Nixon become increasingly hard to avoid, it’s also hard to forget Nixon’s commencement speech to Oklahoma State University 43 years ago. Like Nixon, Trump is now facing intense scrutiny in his office. But he knows, like Nixon, where to go when he needs to drum up support.
The ceremony was full of the kind of soundbites that now pass as news because they fit in a tweet:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 13, 2017
VIDEO: 'Demand the best from yourself,' President Trump said in commencement speech at Liberty University. https://t.co/ssallkDLyL
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 13, 2017
But Twitter is exactly where Trump was torn apart after the speech. There were plenty of anti-Trump (or anti-LU) tweets, but this one sums it up pretty well:
Liberty University is a joke of an academic institution and a bigger joke is pretending to be a Christian one.
— JdC (@Jdecasanova) May 13, 2017
As for that honorary degree from a “Christian” school? Watch for the first president to ever own strip clubs to now add it to his list of “accomplishments.”
Featured image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images